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Betting Guide: How to Handicap Bowl Season

Bowl Season Betting Tips

It’s the most wonderful time of the year! No, not the holidays. Well, yes, the holidays too, but more importantly, college football bowl season. Sure, I love me some regular-season football but there’s something special about bumming around during holiday festivities, snowed under or iced in on lazy days, eating all the food, drinking all the drink, watching college football surrounded by holiday décor with friends and family.

Let’s be honest, we want to also put some money on a game or two. Here are some tips and trends to help steer you in the right direction.

Things to Look Out For

1. Player Injuries

There’s still some time until bowl games begin, leaving an unfortunate opportunity for unexpected injuries to occur. Before placing a wager, check Odds Shark’s injury report on a specific game’s matchup page to make sure there haven’t been any recent injuries to key players.

One example could be Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields. He suffered a sprained MCL against Penn State and has been playing with a knee brace since then.

2. Coaches Leaving, Players Sitting

Handicapping bowl games can be tough this time of year because of changes in personnel and players opting to sit. If a coach has had a great season, he may end up being snagged by another school. One example would be Florida Atlantic head coach Lane Kiffin. Ole Miss fired Matt Luke after three seasons and picked up Kiffin after three seasons with FAU, which means he will not be coaching the Owls during their Cheribundi Boca Raton Bowl matchup against the SMU Mustangs. Instead, defensive coordinator Glenn Spencer will serve as the interim head coach for the Owls’ bowl game. How will this change impact the players? It’s something to consider.

It’s also the time of year that players opt to sit out of bowl games as they plan to make a run at getting picked up in the NFL. Familiar names from the past who’ve done this include LSU’s Leonard Fournette and Stanford’s Christian McCaffrey. Keep a lookout as the game you’re targeting approaches.

3. Suspensions

It happens. It’s something you definitely don’t handicap for, so just do a quick search beforehand to confirm that no sudden suspensions have occurred.

Recently, four Nevada players were issued suspensions after a fight following their loss to UNLV. Last season, players from Alabama and Clemson were dealt one-year suspensions after failing a drug test.

Trends

As always, trends aren’t a be-all and end-all of information but they can help you finalize a play or at least help keep you off a game. Here are some trends to consider before placing your bets.

Just Flip a Coin

Teams have reached a bowl game, which means they are great, right? They may boast winning records but that doesn’t necessarily translate to good ATS records. These are the teams from each conference that went 6-6 ATS this season. Will they cover in their final game of the year? Flip a coin to find out.

  • Virginia (vs Florida in the Capital One Orange Bowl)
  • Virginia Tech (vs Kentucky in the Belk Bowl)
  • Miami (vs Louisiana Tech in the Walk-On’s Independence Bowl)
  • Texas (vs Utah in the Valero Alamo Bowl)
  • Penn State (vs Memphis in the Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic)
  • Southern Miss (vs Tulane in the Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl)
  • Charlotte (vs Buffalo in the Makers Wanted Bahamas Bowl)
  • Liberty (vs Georgia Southern in the Cure Bowl)
  • Western Michigan (vs Western Kentucky in the Servpro First Responder Bowl)
  • Hawaii (7-7 ATS) (vs BYU in the SoFi Hawai’i Bowl)
  • Cal (vs Illinois in the Redbox Bowl)
  • Alabama (vs Michigan in the Vrbo Citrus Bowl)

Bowl Game Newbs

Another thing to consider is if a team is a bowl veteran or is brand new to the big stage. These are the teams that have not been to a bowl in at least any of the last three seasons:

  • Illinois: First bowl after a five-year drought
  • Charlotte: First bowl game in program history
  • Kent State: First bowl game since 2012 and just fourth in team history

Good Bowl Game ATS Records

Small sample size, but these are the teams that not only have bowl game experience but performed well ATS in bowl games over the last three seasons.

  • Clemson: 4-1 ATS
  • Ohio: 3-0 ATS
  • Texas A&M: 3-0 ATS
  • App State: 3-0 ATS
  • Oklahoma State: 3-0 ATS
  • Georgia: 3-1 ATS
  • Boston College: 2-0 ATS
  • Navy: 2-0 ATS
  • Florida State: 2-0 ATS
  • Wake Forest: 2-0-1 ATS
  • Baylor: 2-0 ATS
  • Texas: 2-0 ATS
  • Kansas State: 2-0 ATS
  • Minnesota: 2-0 ATS
  • Marshall: 2-0 ATS
  • Eastern Michigan: 2-0 ATS
  • Wyoming: 2-0 ATS
  • Florida: 2-0 ATS

Bad Bowl Game ATS Records

On the flip side, these are the teams that have bowl game experience in the last three seasons but did not perform well ATS.

  • Michigan: 0-3 ATS
  • Pitt: 0-2 ATS
  • Louisville: 0-2 ATS
  • Central Michigan: 0-2 ATS
  • USC: 0-2 ATS
  • Arizona State: 0-2 ATS
  • LA-Lafayette: 0-2 ATS
  • Alabama: 2-4 ATS

Best Conference ATS Records

Considering only the teams that are participating in bowl games this year, the Big 12 Conference would be your best bet ATS. Between six teams, the conference is 12-2 ATS in bowl games in the last three seasons. The Big 12 Conference is also the best UNDER bet with a combined 3-11 OVER/UNDER record in the last three years, with Oklahoma State (0-3 O/U) accounting for three of the 11 UNDERs.

Worst Conference ATS Records

If you are a bettor, then you have a love/hate relationship with the Pac-12. This year is no different. Over the last three seasons, between the seven teams playing in bowls this year, the Pac-12 is 4-12 ATS.

Final Bowl Betting Advice

There are a million ways to handicap bowl games but aside from what is listed above, make sure to also look at the weather. Not every game is in a sunny place like Florida or the Bahamas (though they should be).

You could also consider motivation as a factor. Although there is no metric for motivation, you could go off the simple idea that this is a team’s first bowl and they’ll give it everything they’ve got. Or you could look at a team like Georgia and wonder how motivated they will be after getting crushed by LSU and missing out on the playoffs.

And remember, the books are required to put a line on every single game but that does not mean you have to place a bet on every single game. Be selective and always remember to practice bankroll management. Football is almost over, let’s not go crazy with these last games of college football season.

For bowl-specific betting tips, follow my blog that I’ll be updating throughout bowl season.